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Year 1, Week 8, Day 4

I have a brief observation for today’s reading of Exodus 4-5.

Today’s reading continues the conversation between Moses and the LORD. Exodus 4 records the apprehensions that Moses has about the return to Egypt in order to lead the Israelites out of their captivity. And yet, by the end of Exodus 4, Moses returns to Egypt and receives a warm welcome. However, Exodus 5 notes the cold reception by Pharaoh and the quick change of attitude from the Israelites as Pharaoh, as a response to Moses’ announcement, increases the burden of their labors.

What struck me from today’s reading is how it reveals the wobbly nature of trusting in the LORD. Both Moses as well as the Israelites display, at times, a shaky faith. There seems to be a layer of complexity in the simple need to trust in the LORD: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?” (Psalm 56:3-4). The LORD shows Himself to be faithful, yet the circumstances that swirl around our lives can chip away at our reliance upon the LORD. The LORD’s people will demonstrate a long history of unbelief: “In spite of all this, they still sinned; despite his wonders, they did not believe.” (Psalm 78:32).

Moses objects to the LORD’s instructions of returning to Egypt with a message of deliverance: “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you.’” (Exodus 4:1). This objection comes immediately after the LORD had said: “And they will listen to your voice” (Exodus 3:18a). The LORD supplies Moses with assurances: “that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.” (Exodus 4:5). Moses will be given the ability to perform signs to help validate that his words were from the LORD. Moses’ struggle remained: "Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” (Exodus 4:10); and is even elevated to profound hesitancy: “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” (Exodus 4:13). While the LORD is angered over Moses’ refusal; nonetheless, He continued His dealings toward Moses with a merciful patience. Insisting that he go, the LORD even provides an advanced insight to how Pharaoh will respond: “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.” (Exodus 4:21).

The Israelites initial reception to Moses and Aaron is good: “Aaron spoke all the words that the LORD had spoken to Moses and did the signs in the sight of the people. And the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped.” (Exodus 4:30-31). But when Pharaoh responds adversely (as the LORD had predicted), and punitively, the Israelites confronted Moses and Aaron: "The LORD look on you and judge, because you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.” (Exodus 5:21). Moses’ arrival had only brought about an increase in the afflictions that the Israelites faced, while Pharaoh’s instructions contained the suggestion that Moses was a liar: “Let heavier work be laid on the men that they may labor at it and pay no regard to lying words.” (Exodus 5:9). Would the Israelites continue to trust in the LORD in the face of increased trouble and risk of death?

Moses pleaded with the LORD: “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.” (Exodus 5:22). Moses complains, but at least he appealed to the LORD. Moses has done what he should have in turning to the LORD. The Lord Himself gives us the Words to voice such prayers: “Afflicted and close to death…I suffer your terrors; I am helpless…Your wrath has swept over me; your dreadful assaults destroy me” (Psalm 88:15-16). The error of unbelief is not found in turning to the LORD, but in forgetting what the LORD has already said. Even though suffering surrounded the Israelites at the moment, they were precious to the LORD, for they were like a firstborn son to Him: “‘Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’” (Exodus 4:22-23). The LORD will crush Pharaoh, but He will not forget His dear son: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” (Hosea 11:1).

As the purposes of God unfold further, the imagery of a firstborn son will be applied to King David, whose line will act as the representative head of the nation: “And I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth. My steadfast love I will keep for him forever, and my covenant will stand firm for him.” (Psalm 89:27-28). Our faith can flourish, even amid afflictions, as we keep our eyes on Christ, the son of David, “the firstborn of all creation…and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (Colossians 1:15, 20).

What struck you in today’s reading? What questions were prompted from today’s reading?

Pastor Joe